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San Diego Master Gardeners
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FAQs: Please review before you complete your application


What are Master Gardeners?

The Master Gardener Association of San Diego County is an all-volunteer organization that helps the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) provide county residents with research-based information and technical assistance in the areas of home gardening, non-commercial horticulture, and pest management. Master Gardeners are individuals trained and certified by UCCE to work with the public.

What do Master Gardeners do?

MGs perform a variety of educational activities:

  • Answer questions from home gardeners on our Master Gardener Hotline and by email
  • Staff educational exhibits at the County Fair and other community events
  • Give talks on gardening and pest management to community groups
  • Plan and conduct gardening classes, seminars, and tours for the public
  • Consult with teachers about school gardens
  • Provide information to community gardeners

MGs also participate in fundraising activities, provide administrative support for the program, and attend membership and committee meetings.

Who can apply?

Applicants must be 18 years old or older and have enough free time to participate in the training course and volunteer activities. All applicants must possess basic computer skills, have regular access to a computer and printer, and have email/internet access. Trainees need to provide their own transportation to the classroom facilities and other locations to participate in training classes, MG meetings, and volunteer activities. In San Diego, the Master Gardener training course is popular and it is usually only given once every two years. Each class has limited space and fewer than half the number of applicants is generally accepted to the program.

Keep in mind that although not every qualified applicant is accepted to a training class, persistence does pay off. Several of the current members applied more than once before being accepted.

How do I get an application?

It is important that you make a thoughtful and complete application that will fully represent you. Before you submit an application, please do the following:

  • Carefully read the information provided here about Master Gardeners, the application and selection process, and training.
  • Review the application form thoroughly.
  • Carefully consider if you have the time and desire to fully participate in the training course and in volunteer activities after training.

Tips for completing and submitting the application:

There are two versions of the application:

This PDF document is designed for you to download and complete directly within Adobe Acrobat Reader.

This Microsoft Word document is designed for you to download and complete with Word.

In either case you can save the information on the form and return to the saved file as often as you wish. Either application can be printed and mailed or emailed as noted below.

Please be sure your answers to the questions are in the highlighted areas to facilitate our review of your application. Should you need additional room to answer a question, please attach your response on a separate page with your name and the number of the question. Your complete application should also include letters of recommendation and any other addendum.

Your application must be sent no later than Monday, October 2, 2017.

You may submit your complete application by email to Scott Parker, MG Coordinator, at (858-822-6932). If you are having your letters of recommendation submitted by the writer, please have them write "MG Applicant - " followed by your last name as the email subject.

Alternatively, you can mail your application and letters of recommendation to:

Master Gardener Association of San Diego County
UC Cooperative Extension
9335 Hazard Way, Suite 201
San Diego, California 92123

What is the application process like?

We usually receive many more applications than we can accept. A committee of MGs will review all applications and will invite the most qualified individuals to a personal interview between October 26 and November 7, 2017. The committee will recommend individuals for the 2018 training course based on information provided in the applications and interviews.

What kind of training will I get?

Master Gardener training provides a basic overview of horticulture and pest management, including basic terminology and principles. Course topics will include basic botany and plant physiology, soils, integrated pest management, entomology, plant pathology, weed management, vertebrate pests, household pests, vegetable gardening, fruit and ornamental tree culture, turf grass management, and diagnosing plant problems. Instruction includes both lecture and experiential components that are taught by experienced specialists to ensure that MGs receive current, research-based instruction.

The training is in English and designed for amateur gardeners. Individuals employed or seeking a career in the horticulture industry are encouraged to enroll in horticultural classes at local colleges.

Students will be certified as University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners when they successfully complete the training course and pass the final exam. The final is an open-book, take-home exam.

When and where is the training?

All classes will be held at the San Diego County Operations Center, located in Kearny Mesa. Classes will meet on Tuesdays from approximately January 9 to June 19, 2016, except on the fourth Tuesday of each month when we encourage trainees to attend the Association's General Meeting. Classes begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 3:00 p.m., with a break for lunch. Students are expected to attend ALL training classes.

What does the training cost?

The training is free but there is a materials fee of approximately $250.00 to cover the discounted cost of text, duplication of handouts, supplies, and speaker expenses. The course textbook is UC Publication #3382 California Master Gardener Handbook, Second Edition. Individuals who already have this book will have a reduction of their materials fees. If the fees pose an extreme hardship, please call 858-822-6932 to inquire about a partial scholarship.

What else is involved with the training?

As a security measure, Master Gardeners must be fingerprinted and pass a background check by the California Department of Justice. Each student will be fingerprinted on the first day of class; the fee for this is included in the class tuition.  Applicants must also sign forms required by the University of California, including a Code of Conduct, Proof of Driver's License and Automotive Insurance, Confidential Self-Disclosure Statement, and Liability Waiver. 

What happens after I complete my training?

Individuals selected for the training course must agree to perform a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service within 18 months of the start of training. After the first year, veteran Master Gardeners must perform a minimum of 25 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education each year to remain active. An online volunteer management system is used to record volunteer service and continuing education. The Master Gardener Association of San Diego County is an incorporated, federal tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization that supports the UCCE Master Gardener Volunteer Program in San Diego County. Trainees are non-voting members of the association, and full membership is granted after training. The Association has monthly meetings to provide continuing education and to coordinate volunteer activities. Meetings are held the fourth Tuesday of each month, except December, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in Balboa Park.